Commentary: ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, successful and significant
By Jessie R. Valdez
San Fernando City, La Union (11 December) -- Though the scheduled ASEAN Summit in Cebu City was postponed due to major weather disturbance, the ministerial meeting proceeded as scheduled. It was a swift stay yet a fruitful and a significant one for they have signed six agreements on trade and services.
In a statement, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye stressed the postponement was "purely weather/typhoon-related."
"The National Organizing Committee postponed the summits sometime in early January next year rather than to hold it in an atmosphere where probably there might be death and destruction around us caused by typhoon Seniang," Sec. Bunye added.
Security officials also assured the people that the postponement of the ASEAN Summit had nothing to do with terror threats or adverse travel advisory but the threat posed by typhoon Seniang. The Government has enforced tight security for the said event and the country had faced the threat of terror for a long time and the people's vigilance stands behind a solid perimeter of law enforcement and containment.
The 500 Economic Ministers of the ASEAN and business leader delegates who converged at the Cebu International Convention Center were able to accomplish tangible things as they have signed 6 agreements.
Of the 6 agreements signed, 4 documents were intra-ASEAN and 2 were ASEAn-China. The ministers also agreed to add logistics sector as the 12th Priority Integration Sector (PIS) that include agro-based products, air travel, automotive products, information and communications technology, electronics, fisheries, healthcare, textiles and apparel, tourism and wood based products.
The 3rd agreement relates to the consolidation of commitments made in previous packages under the ASEAN Framework agreement on Services (AFAS) and under the General Agreement on Trade in Services in one document.
The 2 other agreements with Chine were the amendment to the framework with the accession of the Philippines in the Early Harvest Program, and the amendment on trade in goods of the framework agreement between Vietnam and China.
Meanwhile, the visiting Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who was in Manila during the time of the ministerial meeting in Cebu, would provide an 8.5B Yen ($73M) loan for a flood damage control project for the Pasig-Marikina river.
The 12th theme of the Summit, "One Caring and Sharing Community", has a great impact when Philippines decided to postpone the ASEAN Summit because this is a manifestation that we Filipinos are caring; we care for the Asian leaders' safety as well as our fellow Filipinos when typhoon Seniang will strike the area.
With the postponement of the event, one should remember that it is not the 1st time that a natural calamity disrupted an international meeting in Southeast Asia. The deadly tsunami in Indonesia in December 2004 had also forced the cancellation of an international conference in Jakarta. That's why, foreign dignitaries and leaders understood the decision of the Philippine Government. It is but proper for the Government and the National Organizing Committee to postpone the Summit for the security/safety of everybody. (PIA La Union) [top]